Interactive Advertising Bureau
04 June 2019

IAB Europe Research Awards 2019 - Emotional response to ads on different platforms (Annalect)

Emotional response to ads on different platforms


Awards: Consumer Attitudes and Behaviour (Highly Commended)

Project summary
In a world of constant stimuli and attention span decreasing, we believe more than ever, it is essential that our communication reach and leave a mark on the consumer. Not just in
memory but on a more subconscious level.

Inspired from Byron Sharp’s theory about Emotional Impact, we included biosensors when testing three ads with different creative expressions. The theory concerns the importance of brands creating positive emotional responses to make brands grow. Since we believe platforms interfere with the emotional response, the ads were tested on Facebook, YouTube and TV-on-demand.

To create a realistic ad-exposing setting as possible, we developed interface-mockups and combined it with observation and in-depth-interviews.

We concluded that the ads awoke different emotional responses. But more importantly we discovered that the same ad performed differently on the platforms indicating diverse ‘platform-mindset’ and therefore diverse ‘emotional matches’ between creative expressions and platforms. This created evidence-based knowledge instead of assumption about differences in platform performance.

Furthermore, we nuanced the way to look at performance, as best performance normally would be based on respondents’ answers and time spent watching an ad, but by adding emotional measurement tools, we brought attention to the importance of choosing and adjusting to platforms.

  1. Objective(s)
    Main objective of this study was understanding which emotional responses different creative expressions created on different platforms and why?

    The analytical framework was testing Byron Sharp’s theory about the importance of Emotional Impact. Byron Sharp has through evidential studies proved, that decisions are made with an emotional filter. This means, that besides having easily recognizable brand assets, it is important that brands create positive emotional responses in communication to make their brand grow.

    Therefore, we tested three different creative expressions from three different industries on three different visual platforms. This create insights about both creatives and platforms combined and separately.

  2. Methodology
    To analyze actual emotional responses to the platforms and ads, we developed realistic ad-exposing interface-mockups and combined it with observations, in-depth-interviews and multiple technological measurement tools:

    • Eye-tracking of the visual attention patterns in eyes including time spent and order in focus areas and navigation.
    • Emotional arousal/physiological intensity through skin-conductance (SCR) such as sweat reactions.
    • Facial expressiveness/response and emotional valence.

    This method combination ensured physical and psychological reactions combined with self-reflection on own behavior. Furthermore, the test environment was fixed, realistic and controlled along with ad and platform rotation meaning less interference from other elements ensuring higher validation and reliability.

  3. Key results
    Besides concluding the ads awoke different emotional responses, we discovered the ads performed differently on the platforms indicating different ‘platform-mindset’ and ‘emotional fit’ between creative expressions and platforms.

    This means, although TV-on-demand performed best regarding time spent across platforms and ads, we discovered positive ‘emotional matches’ between ads and platforms:
    • Ad-1 emotionally matched TV-on-demand because a person is talking all the way through the ad and it is essential to hear the entire speech.
    • Ad-2 matched YouTube due to the humorous and “self-challenging” universe in the ad.
    • Ad-3 matched Facebook as the ad expression is dreamlike and works without sound.

  4. Impact and Application
    Testing an ad’s emotional impact is relevant by itself but adding the different platform performance was very valuable as it creates an even better understanding of the performance of the ads and the platforms. There has always been an assumption that the platforms invite to different mindsets and behavior but less evidence-based knowledge.

    Normally we would conclude TV-on-demand to give the best performance based on respondents spending the longest time watching the ads on this platform. But is that the right way to measure best performance? By adding the emotional measurement tools, we discovered very different emotional responses to the same ad on three platforms meaning different emotional matches. This is a nuanced insight which is very essential when developing media strategy along with analyzing creative performance. Furthermore, this brings attention to the importance of choosing and adjusting our creative to the platform if possible.

    Following the completion of this research, we have been more precise and nuanced in our consulting, as we have evidence about the platforms performing differently to certain creative expressions. Becoming aware that it is possible to measure eye tracking and nuanced emotional impact, we have extended our product portfolio.

    Besides offering our clients the possibilities to test their ads’ emotional responses, we have developed emotional impact and eye-tracking solutions for instore-environments relevant for e.g. the FMCG category. The methods are very valuable in observation studies where we want to know and understand which placements and brand assets catch the consumers’ eyes.

    In general, we believe it is essential to combine different methods – including methods that can complement survey and interview data – as this creates a more valuable analysis. Introducing methods that monitor both psychical and psychological responses creates a more holistic analysis.

    5. Significance
    Firstly, the study showed the importance of choosing the right platform for your creative expression as there is a difference in ‘platform-mindset’ which will result in different emotional responses to the same ad. Furthermore, this proves the importance of adjusting creatives to the platforms.

    The analytical ad-exposing setup with interface-mockups also brings attention to the pitfalls of traditional pretests based on a survey questionnaire and interviews. This type of test is far from reality – meaning the ads are not shown in a realistic framework, where the respondents are watching content and then being presented to ads.


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